Texts that offer an insightful view of the world are worth the reader’s time
Great writers use various imagery to offer an insightful view of the world to their readers. ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald provides a strong case for this testimony. The novel is filled with various imagery that reveals truths about ourselves and the society we live in. Fitzgerald helps his readers to reflect on the dangers of materialism and the corruption of the American Dream through the use of places and symbols like the Valley of Ashes, the green light, Gatsby’s library and East/West egg.
‘The Great Gatsby’ is set in the 1920s American Jazz age, and is told through the lens of Nick Carraway, the son of a wealthy family as he mingles with the old rich (Daisy - his cousin, and her husband Tom Buchanan, and their friend Jordan Baker) and the new rich (Jay Gatbsy, a self-made millionaire who grew up poor and gained his riches by bootlegging alcohol during prohibition in America) In his experience, the readers will be lead to compare their own personal experiences to Gatbsy-among other characters in the novel- and see the world through an insightful view.
Firstly, F Scott Fitzgerald uses the setting of the Valley of Ashes to offer an insightful view of the world to his readers. The Valley of Ashes is an area of land about half way between West Egg and New York which represent the ugly leftovers of industrialisation. ‘This is a Valley of Ashes-a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke…’. Fitzgerald uses the setting of the Valley of Ashes as a symbol of the destruction and corruption of the American Dream-the quest for material wealth leaves behind waste, pollution and shattered dreams. Words like grey, ash, and dust create the dismal image of loss and waste.
The Valley of Ashes is a place that we as readers do not want to be reminded of, it highlights that our wealth comes at an environmental and personal cost. From this imagery, readers can be incited to view the world in a different lens where if all we do is chase after money and materialistic things- we will feel empty inside and it will lead to the death of our spirit. After reading his novel, readers will be more aware of their materialistic “habit”, this is because Scott.F Fitzgerald subtly shows that if we don’t stop chasing wealth; we will soon destroy ourselves, those around us, and our world.
Above the valley, there is a billboard advertising a forgotten optometry practice. ‘The eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg are blue and gigantic… evidently some wild wag of an oculist set thm there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens,and then sank down himself into eternal blindness‘. The imagery of the billboard is symbolic of the destruction of dreams, but also comes to represent a ”god” staring down at the moral wasteland of America. It incites readers to examine themselves and the world around them because it reminds us that we will be judged for how we have destroyed dreams and the natural world through corruption. We examine our behaviours when we interact with people, what we set our goals on and how we accomplish those goals.
Moreover, Fitzgerald uses the imagery of a green light to show the readers an insightful view of the world. The green light prompts readers to consider how having unattainable and unrealistic dreams can lead to disaster. The green light represents Gatsby’s longing for Daisy Buchanan, an affluent “Old Money” rich girl who he spent a brief summer with before being drafted into the military. Daisy is the focus of Gatsby’s dream as he idolises her and thinks about her all the time. Readers are aware that Gatsby’s dream is unrealistic and an illusion, yet he still holds out hope that with enough effort,he will be able to enter into Daisy’s “Old Money” upper class aristocracy.
Gatsby is destined to fail because his entire existence is a lie. There is no Jay Gatsby; instead, there are only the crushed dreams of a poor James Gatz, who has spent his entire life acting like Gatsby since he was 17 years old. Both Gatsby and his dreams will never be real- his life is merely an illusion. As someone who came from humble and poor beginnings, Gatsby is predestined to never be accepted by the “Old Money” rich like Daisy; such behaviour was scandalous in the 1920s. Fitzgerald encourages us to reflect on our own self and the society we live in through the imagery of the green light. He demonstrates the hopelessness of having an overly materialistic and obsessive dream. Fitzgerald highlights the weakness of the American Dream by emphasising that despite having wealth like Gatsby, you can never “reach” the symbolic green light unless you already have it. This means that from the beginning, Gatbsy’s dream was doomed for failure. Readers examine themselves and learn that chasing wealth and an unattainable dream is a never-ending cycle. Readers are incited to see that if they don’t stop chasing impossible and obsessive dreams of wealth and other things, their lives will end in an unpleasant way
Furthermore, Fitzgerald uses Gatsby’s library to show the readers an insightful view of the world. When Nick goes looking for Gatsby at a party, he happens to come across a huge library with shelves and shelves of books, and meets a drunk man sitting on the edge of a table. ‘They’re real’, the man says to Nick-talking about the books. This is so important because books are very expensive and unlike in other rich homes, Gatsby’s library is actually filled with real books rather than fake ones. This is symbolic because Fitzgerald is pointing to how desperate Gatbsy is for people to believe he is from American ”old money“. This is no different to our modern world where people pretend to be one thing but are another-especially on social media.
The library is symbolic of appearance vs reality. Readers can see that in our society now, most of us are no different to Gatbsy. Just like Gatbsy goes to great lengths to “prove” he is old money rich-but in reality-he is a bootlegging criminal, we too try to present ourselves in the best light possible to try and prove to others that we are worthy and important. Whether this be through posts on social media or lying to others about ourselves-most of us do not show our true genuine selves to others because we are scared of not fitting into society’s norms. In Gatsby’s case, his society only accepted extremely wealthy high class people.
Finally, Fitzgerald uses the imagery of the East and West eggs to show the readers an insightful view of the world. While Daisy lives in the “old money” suburb of East Egg, Gatsby lives in the “new money” suburb of West Egg. The two suburbs are divided by water and separates Gatsby apart from Daisy and his fantasies, and the green light. Fitzgerald uses the imagery of the two “eggs” to highlight the difference and division between new and old money in the upper classes. The East Eggers lack passion and ambition, despite having more “class” and having been born into wealth. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money”.
Fitzgerald uses the imagery of East and West Egg to emphasise the hollowness of the upper class. Even though they have money, the people of East Egg are characterless and live empty meaningless lives. Fitzgerald challenges us to think about the modern icons of the upper class, including athletes, musicians, and actors. By using the imagery of the two “Eggs”, Fitzgerald demonstrates the idea that people are frequently corrupted by their wealth and are not always who they seem to be. It is ironic that in today’s society, there are both superstars who reside in gigantic mansions with excess amounts of room and money, and homeless people who do not even have a roof over their heads.
In conclusion, great writers show an insightful view of the world that are indeed worth the reader’s time. In ‘The Great Gatbsy’, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the setting of the Valley of Ashes, the green light, Gatsby’s library and East/West egg to incite his readers to see the world and themselves through an insightful and different lens. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows us that the American Dream has been tainted by materialism and is an unattainable goal for those who are not born into money. His deeply thought out imagery is worth the reader’s time because it prompts us to ponder about how when we are deeply materialistic, our dream to gain the “ultimate” amount of possessions and wealth is impossible, because thirsting over wealth is a never ending cycle that only leads to destruction in our world.